And the Textbook Is ... Free? Introduction To Open Educational Resources

Past Executive Committee Member

Ask most California community college students, "What is your biggest college expense?" Overwhelmingly, you will hear, "books and supplies". First time, full-time community college students spent an average of $886 (Government Accountability Office, 2005) in 2003-04 on books and supplies. Now in 2009-10, we can estimate that figure to be approximately $1000 per year. Fortunately, faculty have the power to reduce this major student expense. And, this cost savings will make the biggest impact on the greatest number of students, even more so than reducing student fees. Intrigued? Willing to learn more? Want to help out? Read on! (Note: see the accompanying article "But will it fly. OER and Articulation.) Open educational resources (OER) are high quality educational content and tools. They are freely available from the Internet, easily accessible 24/7. They are written in many languages and accessed by learners all around the world. OER may be used as presented, shared, modified, even sold (huh?-more on this later in this paragraph). Students save money because the learning content is free. They may access a text, video or graphic online, download a pdf, or even print out a book. All of these activities are done legally, as the authors of OER have either purposely put the online item in the public domain or assigned a Creative Commons license to it. The Creative Commons license grants a baseline set of rights to users that are less restrictive than a standard copyright. Authors decide what level of openness they will allow. The statistics textbook that Susan Dean and I co-authored, for example, allows others to remix learning materials to customize them for their own sections, so long as original attribution is given. Terri Teegarden of Mesa College and Roberta Bloom of De Anza College have done just that, adding and editing pages to meet the needs of their classes. It also allows others to sell our materials, again giving attribution to Susan and me. We decided to allow this level of license so that college printing services could print the pdf and earn a profit for those students who want printed versions of the text (still at greatly reduced costs). In addition to lowering the costs of educational materials for students, there are other benefits of authoring and using OER, as well. The faculty member is freed from teaching from the textbook. She may include numerous URLs for supplemental materials knowing that students can access the content without paying fees. In addition, Susan and I have experienced that, although our text was commercially used at colleges for over a dozen years, now that our text is open, we have received feedback from colleagues and students around the world. We can quickly review the suggestions and make edits and improvements to the text rapidly. As faculty authors, we have been enriched by many of these international conversations as well as learning that our text is used in universities around the world. We hear from students in colleges and high schools around the United States, in Europe, and in South America about how our materials help them. There are several organizations and repositories for Open Educational Resources. In California, both the CSU and CCC Systems have leadership roles for the following two international organizations. MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching), run out of the CSU Chancellor's Office, contains peer-reviewed resources in its searchable database. California Community College faculty, including Larry Green (Lake Tahoe CC), Michelle Pilati (Rio Hondo CC), and David Megill (MiraCosta CC) participate on its national editorial board. CCCOER (Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources) is led by Foothill-De Anza CCD with CCC faculty Barbara Illowsky (De Anza CC) on its Steering Committee and other faculty from over a third of the California community colleges involved. These two organizations, alone, have catalogued and listed over 250 textbooks that we faculty could assign to our students. Government organizations are actively participating in reducing the cost of textbooks for students. In the past few years, there have been over 100 bills submitted by 34 states-all about textbook affordability (Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, 2007). Our own CCC Board of Governors (2008) and the Academic Senate (2005) are in support of digital and free textbooks. The Foothill-De Anza CCD Board of Trustees is believed to be the first community college district in the United States to adopt a policy on public domain learning materials (2004). Even the California Mathematics Council, Community Colleges (CMC3), passed a resolution in support of CCCOER. It is important to note that most of this activity stems from the participation of students in the Public Interest Research Group's (PIRG) Make Textbooks Affordable Campaign By now, I hope you are excited enough to learn how you can reduce the educational expenses for your own students. Visit these sites to learn more. There is even a tutorial on OER to get you started. Remember that you are not alone. We can all work together to develop the materials to support our students' educational journeys. Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources: Creative Commons: Tutorial on OER: Community College Open Textbook Project: and Connexions: For more info about state textbook bills: References: Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. Spring 2005. Textbook Issues: Economic Pressures and Academic Values. Retrieved August 22, 2009, from Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance. 2007. State Legislation on College Textbook Affordability. Retrieved August 22, 2009, from Government Accountability Office. 2005. College Textbooks: Enhanced Offerings Appear to Drive Recent Price Increases. Washington, D.C. California Community Colleges Board of Governors. 2008. Recommendations to Reduce Textbook Costs to Promote Student Access and Success. Retrieved August 22, 2009, from…. Foothill-De Anza Community College District. 2005. Board of Trustees Board Policy #6141. Retrieved August 22, 2009, from